Indianapolis Construction Update

Friday, March 18, 2011

For whom the Angelus bell tolls...

The rich tone and familiar sound that echoed daily throughout Beech Grove was heard no more after Aug. 12, 1975.

Since the hospital’s construction in 1913, the Sisters of St. Francis climbed the stairs to the tower to ring the bronze bell. It was a Franciscan tradition called “Angelus,” dating back to 1260, recalling the angel of God delivering the news to Mary of the imminent birth of the Messiah.

The bell tolled daily at 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m., as a celebratory call to prayer. And it rung in a mournful way at 3 p.m., recounting the time Christ was thought to have died.

“It was a mournful tolling, unlike the joyous sound of Angelus,” according to a January 1983 account in Intercom, the former St. Francis Hospital employees’ newsletter. “At its sound each Sister would cease her activities, kneel with outstretched arms and pray, offering up such prayers for the dying in the name of the crucified Christ…”

The aging hospital roof needed replacing, requiring the removal of the three-ton bell unit and tower structure. After more than six decades, that all-familiar sound was silenced.

Today, the shining bell is displayed near the hospital’s main lobby – but the Franciscan tradition and meaning it conveyed still resonates.

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